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12 Small Changes = Big Impact to your Professional career!

Too much work, every day we stay late in office. Oh it just skipped my mind, sorry. Let’s discuss it tomorrow. His/her mail is always ambiguous, let’s discuss on call directly. They are discussing about the technical design, we (testers) need not attend. Hey developer – have mailed you the bug, please investigate. These are some of the common dialogues in our everyday IT life. Ever thought of changing something? Nah? Yes? Every one of us notices something errant but then forget about it the next moment. But we say – Small changes can make a big difference to your career.

“Change one small thing today and bigger changes will follow”

Everyday life is a series of decisions. Don’t try to overhaul overnight. Instead, focus on making one small change at a time. Over time, these small changes will add up to big career transformations. Same rule applies to the workplace as well. A series of small changes can make a huge impact to your career. Yeah! Career. We are not asking you to learn automation 😛 or to switch companies. These are just some small changes in your professional habits which can brighten your career. Feel free to add more in the comments section below.

Start your Day early

Now-a-days it’s a common practice of reaching office at around 11’O clock. Nah? Okay, 10:30 AM 😛 Even if a bit early, what do we do until the noon? Greetings, Breakfast, Social Media, Internet browsing, Meetings and Chit-chats. No real productive work. Many would agree with us that the real work starts only after noon, correct? Yeah! And then we crib about loads of work and extended working hours. Who is at fault here? While many of us are still in bed, some folks are scoring daily victories to improve their health, careers, and personal lives without sacrificing their sanity. What’s common in every successful CEO? Yeah! They understand the importance of time. They all start their day as early as possible. Once they are up early, they have a few extra hours to contemplate before the day begins.

Small change - Start your day early

Tim Cook, CEO, Apple, is known for sending out company emails at 4.30 in the morning, according to Gawker’s Ryan Tate.

Mark Zuckerberg, Co-Founder and CEO, Facebook, usually makes his first move at 6:00 am in the morning, gets ready, and goes straight to the office.

Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus, Tata Sons, attends the meetings of various companies of TATA Sons starting from 6 am.

Mornings hold the key to taking control of our schedules. If we use mornings wisely, we can build habits that will allow us to lead happier, more productive lives. Everybody has the same 24-hours in a day. While many of us ‘waste’ the precious morning hours sleeping, some of us reach office by 9 AM and wind up their work by 6 PM to enjoy the evenings with their family. Morning is the best time to set the agenda for the day, plan the activities, tasks planning & delegation, and some productive work. Make this small change from tomorrow, and your career will surely thank us for it in the long-run 🙂

Maintain a To-do list

We in the Software industry are generally free only during the weekends. Why do you think we all await for weekends eagerly? But how do you plan your weekends? After all, there is so much to do (personal home work) in just 2-days. What we as a couple follow is to make a to-do list for every weekend listing the important tasks to be completed. Nah! Partying is out-of-the-list & impromptu 😉 that way we are on track & nothing is lost in our thoughts. This small technique has helped us achieve (or complete) everything that’s on our list, without a miss.

Extending the same technique to our professional life – it helps to maintain a to-do list. It need not be a complicated list using some open-source software, tracking the priorities, completion, etc. What we follow is a simple list in our text pad 😉 Yes, text pad. Just a plain simple list. Keep adding the tasks and just delete it once done. That way nothing is left forgotten, or simply ignored. Sometimes I also add personal tasks like online bill payment to my professional to-do list 😉

Just Google it

“Unless your name is Google, stop acting like you know everything”

Career Impact - Google It

I owe this one to my big brother. And I see this one missing in most of us. The all-time uninterrupted access to internet via laptop/mobile is not just about work and social surfing. We discuss in-numerous things in our day-to-day professional life, and it is obvious that we cannot know all. This habit is a small push to that direction. During discussions we often don’t know some term, concept or terminology and what do we do about it? Ask colleagues. And if they also don’t know? Nothing. Dead end. Not anymore. If I don’t know something that popped up in a conversation, and I have immediate internet access – first thing is to google it. Else we tend to forget it. It just remains a terminology. If we google it at the same moment, it adds to our knowledge base.

Be friends with Development team

It’s been a debate from the inception of Software Testing as a career. Developers see us as someone whose only job is to find faults in their product. And we see developers as someone building a buggy product with no respect to Testing. Forget the harmony but this divide also obstructs the information (or knowledge) flow. Test Team: Developers are the creators, respect it. Dev Team: Testers are just improving the product, not testing your capability. Don’t let this divide hinder the overall knowledge – domain, business, technical, application, process, anything. It is when we share that we get each other’s perspective. Apart from testers, I also owe my knowledge to the developers who are friends with me.

Info first, but Presentation also matters

Recently we have been working on a Salesforce Marketing cloud project and one of the Senior Managers required us to provide certain pointers for future engagements. It didn’t require any fancy look, just pointers. So my Manager jotted down the points in a mail & was about to send it when I asked her to forward it to me & I can update/add to it.

Career Impact - Presentation Matters

“It is presentation which lifts the card trick from the level of the commonplace puzzle to the status of an unforgettable and inexplicable mystery”

Within an hour a presentation was up & running. Yeah! It doesn’t take hour’s’ to build a simple presentation with few slides. The result? Yeah! When people talk about my mails or presentations – they know it’s crisp, clear, and concise and presented nicely. Seriously, not boasting, but it impacts your career. Agree or not, unconsciously people take a note of your presentation skills. It feels good when you get a mail that’s presented nicely. Managers and SMs too. So the next time you are sending out a mail – make sure it looks nice. Next time you are collating the info – make sure it is presented nicely. Nah! It won’t take too much time but has a cumulative impact!

Study about the Client

It’s halfway through the project & if you ask people about the Client & their business – only a few are able to describe it properly. Actually they are into the Content domain. Based out of the U.S. And then directly jump on to the application the project is handling. Your client is not just about this application. Every client has a huge line of business, that’s why they are capable of hiring you at the first place 😛 Don’t restrict your knowledge to the application-under-test, study about the client’s overall business instead. Our first task after getting into any project is to Google about the client & its portfolio of business and where does our tiny project fit into the overall bigger picture. Once you have that ‘Frog-in-the-pond’ experience, it helps to take a leap to ‘fish-in-the-river’ and then understand the ‘whale-in-the-ocean’ experience!

Understand Application Technicalities

What is the technology your application is built upon? Is it Java or Python? Or mainframe? What’s the database? Oracle? Or is it a product like Hybris? What’s the UI language? Yeah! CSS will always be there. How many of us know the technicalities of the application-under-test? Or the design? Ever sat with an architect to understand the different elements? Yes? Well done. Nah? Start understanding the application technicalities.

Career Impact - Be Technical

Recently in a team call we were discussing the requirements and high-level implementation. Whether to use out-of-the-box available functionalities or write a custom code. What will be the data model architecture? Yeah! Many would think what is Tester doing in this very call 🙁 I try to give my inputs as much as possible (since I am not a developer) – but I am an engineer after all 😛 I understand the architecture. Suddenly a developer asks me – “Hey Deepanshu, just curious – what is your experience & role?” I knew what he wanted to know 😉 He has never seen a tester participating in architectural discussions. And then giving inputs. “I am a Tester with 7+ years of experience, but I try to pitch in wherever my mind allows” I said.

Understanding the application design from technical perspective helps us to test better. Apart from Testing, it helps in ‘preventing’ the bugs at the first place. After all a Tester brings in the Business perspective as well to the Technical discussion. Also, during testing I know my Test cases are covering which specific parts of the application & which component has been left out. It helps in zeroing on the root cause for a defect, or identifying the specific defective component at least. It helps to have a practical & technical experience to enhance a Tester’s capabilities. On a side note – it helps in building inter-intra-team relationships!

Speak Up in calls

“If you can’t communicate and talk to other people and get across your ideas, you’re giving up your potential” – Warren Buffet

Many people are hesitant to speak up in calls, be it internal or with the clients. When I started my career my Lead use to push me to speak up in the calls. Now I know that it has immense impact on your professional career. You can provide your inputs, or confirm the understanding, or discuss. To get started even a simple ‘Hi, How are you doing?” also helps.

Not everything that’s in the mind can be written. That’s where we have calls & meetings to discuss. It’s quicker than writing mails. They say if you are silent “Either you understood everything, or nothing at all”. Contributing in discussions helps in brainstorming – everyone has a different viewpoint. Everybody has got something to say. Now I try to push my teammates to speak up in calls, and slowly they are the ones driving.

Don’t procrastinate

Procrastination, noun, the action of delaying or postponing something. The worst kind of procrastination is being busy without work when someone asks for help, just because you are not in the mood. Yeah! Many people tend to delay helping others until the time either one forgets about it.

Career Impact - Avoid Procrastination

“Procrastination is like a credit card; it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill”

Instead of delaying anything, always try to complete it at the moment. That is if you are not real busy. That presentation you have been delaying on. That process improvement to be implemented. That fun event you wanted to organize. That risk you wanted to highlight. That new tool you wanted to learn. It can be anything. Hope you are not the one saying “I’m taking care of my procrastination issues; you just wait & see” 😛

Don’t argue to win, discuss for a win-win instead

The most common. Especially among the experienced workforce. As you grow older in your experience, the tendency of ‘being right’ increases proportionately. Yes, you might be right. But if you argue to prove it, it doesn’t matter anymore.

“I may not always be right, but I’m never wrong”

Aim for a win-win instead; discuss to understand other’s perspective. It will lead to two outcomes – either you will get to know something new (& correct) OR the other person will understand & accept your argument. A win-win. If you are experienced enough – your subordinate might agree halfheartedly to you. But if you talk polite & discuss genuinely – he/she will understand your perspective & respect you even more. Think about it!

Don’t just bug, Debug!

Recently we wrote an article “Testing != Bugs | The real purpose of Software Testing”. Many people still believe that finding bugs is the ‘only’ important task of a tester. It’s important but not the only one. With the technological advancements, Software Testing has evolved as a career & profession. Now it’s not just about finding the bugs. What do you do after identifying a bug? Just assign it to developer and move on? Nah! That’s the old approach.

The times have changed. Don’t just bug, debug. Once you find a bug, try reproducing it & understanding its root cause. What is the exact functional flow, which module is having a problem, is it impacting other areas as well, try it on another browser or machine or OS, check the logs, etc. You will earn respect as a tester if along with the bug description you can highlight its root cause or some more information about it that can help developers to quickly fix it. Try it once 😉

Explore | Advance your career

Advance your Career

The last but not the least – keep exploring. Exploring is a vague term in itself – it can be technically, from the application perspective, or the process tweaks, about the testing techniques & tools, anything. Never cease to stand like curious children, propelled by curiosity and a sense of discovery. It is when you explore that you learn new things. It can be a great boost to your career & future professional life.

With that we end our small list of small changes that can have a lasting impact on your professional career. Hope it made some sense. If Yes, don’t forget to share it with your friends & colleagues. If No, not to worry – let’s discuss it for a win-win 😛 Got another small change to add to the list? Would be happy to read about it in the comments section below…

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